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artinwc
03-25-2008, 08:26 AM
After avoiding doing still life painting for years in my watercolors, and after getting really sucked in to pastels (PanPastels especially) :D , I am also wanting to learn how to set up attractive and appealing still lifes for painting IRL. After doing a good bit of searching here at WC, I'm still not coming up with the kinds of suggestions I am hoping to find. In setting up a still life indoors, are boxes the most common "stage" used? And what are the more successful types of lighting on the still life subjects?

Any ideas would be really helpful at this early stage. And if there is a thread already existing on this (I searched in the Still Life forum also) if someone would be so kind as to help me locate it, it would be much appreciated!

Thanks!:wave:
Judith

Diana_pastels
03-25-2008, 09:02 AM
Great questions, I too would love to have info on this. Waiting anxiously for replies.
Diana

Kathryn Wilson
03-25-2008, 09:36 AM
I am assuming you've checked out the Still Life forum, but if you dig even deeper, you can find some resources in their older threads. Here's one on setting up a "box" which I have used on a still life and it did work well, but for me they seem to "contain" the objects a bit much. Personal preference, I think.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles2/2514/127/

artinwc
03-25-2008, 09:49 AM
I am assuming you've checked out the Still Life forum, but if you dig even deeper, you can find some resources in their older threads. Here's one on setting up a "box" which I have used on a still life and it did work well, but for me they seem to "contain" the objects a bit much. Personal preference, I think.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles2/2514/127/

Thanks, Kathryn. I did find that thread and it gave me some ideas, but I agree the objects did seem a little "boxed in". It's all I really found that was dedicated to the subject though. Maybe there are enough folks here who've had some experiences with the setup that we could get some additional ideas and information.

Any help and though-sharing much appreciated!
Judith

Kathryn Wilson
03-25-2008, 10:01 AM
LOL ... it isn't helping much that we have the Pastel Library closed for revamping, but here is a Project I led back in 2005 on setting up Still Lifes. Read through the Project discussion thread and look at the various set ups that people created.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/Projects/index.php?cmd=view_details&proj_id=956

Funny that you've started this discussion - I've got a series of still lifes I want to do and have been pondering how to set it up, and where and how to light it.

Let's see what kind of response we get - I could lead another Project again if there is interest.

Kathryn Wilson
03-25-2008, 10:53 AM
Hint: Cravia is going to have several still life subjects in the April Pastel Strokes.

Deborah Secor
03-25-2008, 11:12 AM
I remember seeing a thread that BMBURT started in which he showed us his setup and discussed site-sizing, in particular. That might be a helpful thread...not sure, as I tend to just slap some stuff on my plein air easel, swing a lamp that way and paint. In fact, my favorite still life subject, when I do them at all, is actually flowers. Since they're gonna die I just paint them all in one day, all in one sitting, with the flowers in natural sunlight! I'm sure that's no help....

Anyway, you might search BMBURT's threads.

And surely Dianna Ponting has some info, too!

Deborah

Donna A
03-25-2008, 11:58 AM
LOL ... it isn't helping much that we have the Pastel Library closed for revamping, but here is a Project I led back in 2005 on setting up Still Lifes. Read through the Project discussion thread and look at the various set ups that people created.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=302321

Funny that you've started this discussion - I've got a series of still lifes I want to do and have been pondering how to set it up, and where and how to light it.

Let's see what kind of response we get - I could lead another Project again if there is interest.

Hi, Kathryn! I've clicked several times on your link above and keep getting the following 'Site Message." Hmmm???? Thanks, Donna ;-}

Donna A, you do not have permission to access this page. This could be due to one of several reasons:

Your user account may not have sufficient privileges to access this page. Are you trying to edit someone else's post, access administrative features or some other privileged system?
If you are trying to post, the administrator may have disabled your account, or it may be awaiting activation.

Kathryn Wilson
03-25-2008, 12:02 PM
Well, it seems I will have to move the thread in order for us to see it - the fact that I am the Moderator allows me to view it.

CM Neidhofer
03-25-2008, 12:02 PM
LOL ... it isn't helping much that we have the Pastel Library closed for revamping, but here is a Project I led back in 2005 on setting up Still Lifes. Read through the Project discussion thread and look at the various set ups that people created.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=302321

Funny that you've started this discussion - I've got a series of still lifes I want to do and have been pondering how to set it up, and where and how to light it.

Let's see what kind of response we get - I could lead another Project again if there is interest.

I remember that project. I clicked on the link, but I got a message that said I don't have privileges to access??? I would be very interested in another similar project.

Christine

CM Neidhofer
03-25-2008, 12:05 PM
LOL.....two posts while my computer was making up it's mind to send one!! Computers...gotta love 'em! :p

Christine

Kathryn Wilson
03-25-2008, 12:09 PM
Okay, give it a shot now ... I moved the thread back into the Pastel Talk forum, with a new link.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/Projects/index.php?cmd=view_details&proj_id=956

Colorix
03-25-2008, 04:50 PM
FWIW, I don't use a box, though I deem them excellent for controlling the light, especially so it falls on one desired spot.

I put my objects on a table/stool/ironing board (great for adjusting height), and flood them with 300W halogen light. Photo lamps ought to be fine too. The halogen light is of a Kelvin temperature close to sunlight at approx 7-9 am (and 3-5 pm).

You can have a secondary, much weaker, lightsource on the shadow side of the object, for example a cool daylight bulb (or natural light from window). Or a reflector: crinkled aluminium foil, or a white sheet of paper, or a coloured sheet, or coloured fabric, if you want to control the colour of the shadows.

Primary lightsource can be positioned anywhere between 8 o'clock and 4 o'clock, as that gives the most interesting shadows and lights, and thus volume. It can be set high or low, or medium high, naturally. :-) Seen from above, the lightsource shouldn't be between this shape: /\ . The objects sit at the point.

Objects should overlap, to create a sense of distance.

Odd number of objects are preferable.

You can crop close, and show only parts of some of the objects.

You can put an object so that it casts a shadow somewhere in what will be the picture, but not include the object itself. For example a plant that throws interesting shadows over an otherwise flat and boring part of the tabletop (or bg wall).

You can use tablecloths (or different papers) of one, two, or more colours, that will give interesting colourshifts in the shadows.

You can use objects of the same type, say, glass, but of different forms and colours, shiny and frosty. Or same colours, and shiny plus frosty. The possibilities are *endless*.

You can put small cartons/books/upsidedownturned glasses/etc *under* a tablecloth/sheet to make interesting 'pedestals' for the objects. That way you'll get interesting drapings too!

I recommend fairly easy, simple and clean, objects for the first few still-lifes. Explore light and shadow, colour, value. What happens? How does it look? How does the colour change when moving from light to shadow? Where are the reflections?

Just to mention a few of the parameters one can play with!

I've seen a very successful still-life with some eggs in a bowl with water. The colours of white, and the difference between egg-in-air and egg-in-water.

If it didn't sound trite, I'd say still-lifes is an art in itself., so I wont say it :-)

Good luck, and I hope to see many beautiful still-lifes! Kathryn's project produced some awsome work!

artinwc
03-25-2008, 05:34 PM
Thanks so much for making your thread accessible, Kathryn. And thanks too, Charlie, for all your tips. There is a lot here to digest! :) Lots to read and lots to think about.

Judith

Donna A
03-25-2008, 05:58 PM
After avoiding doing still life painting for years in my watercolors, and after getting really sucked in to pastels (PanPastels especially) :D , I am also wanting to learn how to set up attractive and appealing still lifes for painting IRL. After doing a good bit of searching here at WC, I'm still not coming up with the kinds of suggestions I am hoping to find. In setting up a still life indoors, are boxes the most common "stage" used? And what are the more successful types of lighting on the still life subjects?

Any ideas would be really helpful at this early stage. And if there is a thread already existing on this (I searched in the Still Life forum also) if someone would be so kind as to help me locate it, it would be much appreciated!

Thanks!:wave:
Judith

Hi, Judith! For my still life set ups, I enjoy using the cool north light from my skylight on one side of my still life and an incandescent 200W bulb (very warm light) aimed toward the other side so that I get wonderfully exciting variations of temperatures within each of the hues of objects within any still life. I've also set up still lifes using the cool light as my predominant light source where the shadows show up warmer---and something we will see most often in the old masters paintings of both still lifes or figures, or general interiors.

I usually spend an hour, sometimes two, setting up something that will work beautifully from a number of viewing points for various artists working at the same time. When you are setting up for only yourself, it's so much easier as far as the minor adjustments go. I look for color and shape relationships (contrasts AND unities), dynamic movements (soooo important!!!), repetition of shapes when it's an important part of the concept, and of course, the lighting! Even the viewing level is a must to consider!

I'll often choose items based on one particular piece of cloth for a unifying factor in a color scheme. Here are some examples that might help to see what I was considering. The first, "Time in Purple, Red and Gold", built around a gorgeous, heavy silk scarf.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Mar-2008/77048-TimeInPurple,RedGold-450.jpg

I used red velvet, red beads, red gold-embossed old books along with a deep tan, a brass cricket box I love using, big hand-made pot and clock...etc! I pulled a lot of different things from around the house and studio that played into those colors---and then began arranging, finally working out a striking lighting. Finally, since this was set up on a table in the middle of the room, I needed to 'design' a backdrop based on what the painting's composition wanted/needed! So---first, something with a strong horizontal that would provide a visual stability with all the other movement going on within the composition. And then---some verticals, as well---particularly something that would let movement go not only along the diagonal from the violet point laying over the red on the right up and back to the clock and the light/shadow pattern in that area, but also a diagonal flowing the other way, frm the red beads adn bracelet, across and around the big (anchoring) gold pot to the books, which disappear into the shadowy darks beyond that vertical behind the pot. So---I used some of the architecture from the circa 1870's Italian confessional in my class studio, even though it was not visually behind it. Look for shape/color/movement ideas around you when you are searching for backgrounds not contained IN the visual field of the still life.

And consider the background FROM THE BEGINNING! It's ALL part of the painting. Don't dismiss it as far too many do, making a dreaded monster of it toward the end of the painting.

Here are some other still lifes I've set up around a particular piece of fabric, including several from a series of gorgeous French brocade napkins which I treasure! Lush! And the light plays so fascinatingly over them!

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Mar-2008/77048-BoscPears-450.jpg

You can see that I again used architectural ideas from the confessional here, though shaped some elements differently to meet needs of the composition. A LOT of it a a feel---an internal 'engineering' quality we can find in ourselves, in our intuitive---and cultivate further! (I have used the confessional as the actual backdrop in many still lifes and recently, in the Pan Pastel portraits you may have seen on the "Having a BALL..." thread. Again, often redesigned a bit for the composition, but nevertheless a vital inspiration. Find interesting details around you--in your home, your studio--around your city! Can add important personal gifts to your works!)

Again, the lighting plays an important role in the concept and composition. The bowl is purposefully full of bosc pears nearly the same color as the bowl. The small purple dish is arranged to carefully meld into the band of purple woven into the brocade's design.

A friend brought over lilacs (ahhh!) just when I was setting this up---and they played so beautifully with the blue band in the brocade---as the granny smith apples did with the greeny-gold band.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Mar-2008/77048-CrockLilacsGrannySmiths-450.jpg

And here, had so much fun with the pattern as it moved in and out of the folds! The painting's colors in the background play an important part in the set up---and was there in real life.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Mar-2008/77048-AntqCompteFrenchCoBrocd-450.jpg

And here three more set ups, the first, Lemons on Gray, was set up because I find the combination of yellow and gray fascinating. Used a favorite silk scarf (I have made quite a collection over the decades!) which had both ivory white linear plus paisley designs in it---with an old and rather sleek railroad teapot played off against it's partner, a dark gray and white raku pot---and a load of lemons! Then the lighting! which I set a good bit lower---and late in the afternoon, a bit of an extra red-orangey tinge of light would come thru the small west window and add one more little kick of warm, which I happily "harvested!" Amazing colors from the north/cool and spotlight+west/warm light showed up on both the gray silk as well as the lemons!

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Mar-2008/77048-LemonsOnGray-450.jpg

The white foamcore board I'd covered the lower table with was quite large---and for visual reasons, I laid a dark fabric over the far end to 'redesign' the location of the table-top edge. Then---as much as I was enjoying that striking violety blue shadow from the pot---I wanted/needed more impact along the upper right---so added an imaginary band of color one might have found on a table cloth. The architectural detail of 'door jamb and wall' were added as a way of breaking up the background while 'giving excuses' for color and value changes plus stability in contrast to what I wanted as a feeling of great open space disappearing endlessly into the distance, which contrasts also with the intimacy of the cluster of lemons and vessels.

This is a still life's photo I set up based, as I often will, on a single color---since it is sooo much a better opportunity to learn to really see color in all it's variations! You can really see the color influence of the north light coming directly in from the left---and the incandescent from the right, and their respective colors of shadows!

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Mar-2008/77048-Green-Still-Life-cover-.jpg

Can't find a photo of my painting from this at the moment. You can see other photos of this set up taken in several different lighting situations including one at night with only a red light bulb on my Mastering Color DVDs. Ya'd never guess there were any green objects in the still life! Really interesting effects that light creates---and we can only see color because of light---and HOW we see/interpret color IS based on what ranges of light are hitting the subject (plus how our eyes are working!) (Plus what our brain learns to make of it all!!!)

Here is another set up, two versions---set up first with a cluster of several yellow-orange objects that are soo similar in color---and the blues and reds to make a Primary color scheme. The foamcore wall had a small painting hanging to add elements to the composition. Again, light and shadow very important to me---along with exciting colors and textures.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Mar-2008/77048-TangerineBlues-450.jpg

Same still life, different viewpoint---and my large (aged) selloum plant brought from the other studio, a strip of white artists' tape on the back of the leaf tip, pulling it down into desired placement, fastened to the back of the tablecloth. The "Carribean" warm blue in the background to level (as other times above) and then---what the heck--only an orange 'distance' would do! ;) Played around with the location of the 'door jamb' a bit---but found the place and colors that finally felt right. Really enjoyed painting both of these versions.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Mar-2008/77048-CarribeanDream-450.jpg

Another pattered scarf---and you want to either first draw very carefully---or just paint the whole painting with wonderful mad abandon where you use the 'impression' of the pattern. :D I tried to make good use of busy vs. big simple areas. Movement, overlap, flow, etc.---always aspects I relish and USE! :heart:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Mar-2008/77048-GranSmBelamcandaLilies-450.jpg

And a piece again composed around a piece of fabric---the raw silk in the front---which had a fine pin stipe of red and several in blue-green---which I ended up not showing---but had found a print of one of Odilon Redon's paintings which went in the background and hence the title "Odilon Holding Court." Here, I experimented with finely detailed work (focus) at the distance of the apple and pot---and then very less focused (looser) before and beyond. Was fun!

I hope some of these help to give you some ideas. These are very complex set ups, but I have also set up very, very simple ones, still taking into considerations all the elements I mentioned---and still others. But these seem core.

Below, I've added the text from the MAPS newsletter this month (March 2008) with the review of our previous month's program---my "Discovering Color—White on White." Tonight members have been asked to bring White-on-White paintings using information I shared and demoed. So might give you a few ideas, even though only space in the article for a few selections from the info. I'll include the photo that Peggy B took at the meeting from her seat in the audience. (She was in KC that week and also spoke at the meeting, sharing some thoughts about IAPS and so forth! And everyone enjoyed meeting her so much!)

Still life set up in a couple of minutes at MAPS meeting--and in common, inexpensive florescent lighting, very lean on blues and no violet light band to speak of. However, warms and cools can be seen in this limited light range situation:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Mar-2008/77048-WhiteStillLifeDemo-MAPS-2-08.jpg

MidAmerica Pastel Society -March 2008- newsletter excerpt: February Program Review
Our February program, Discovering Color, focused on colors that can be found in white objects and was presented by Donna Aldridge. She explained the important role that lighting plays in the colors we see. One key point was that when a full spectrum of light is present in the general surroundings, warm light creates cool shadows and a cool light creates warm shadows. When the main light source is neutral, the shadows are neutral, as well. The same color effects are happening to objects of any hue, but sometimes can be easier to see and study on pure white. Different types of light sources have different colors. Incandescent light bulbs tend to be very warm – orangey golden – and anything hit by that warm light source will have more of a warm cast in the lighted areas – and will have a cooler cast in the shadow areas. She explained why – and what to look for in order to see colors ever better. The natural northern light is cool, producing deep warm shadows. She set up a simple white still life with a 200 W incandescent spot light to demonstrate the effect the meeting room’s florescent lighting had on the highlights and shadows of white objects on a white fabric. The light areas were very pale ochre and peachy colors of ‘white.’ Since the florescent lighting had very little blue and no violet in its color spectrum, the shadows were still on the cool side, but more of a dull, drab greenish-blue. If it had been a daytime north light exposure, the same shadows would have had more of an aqua to blue-violet cast. Highlights are always the color of the light source. Very few whites are Titanium white. Donna suggested some pastel stick colors that worked together to make very rich and interesting ‘whites.’ Those wanting to set up a white still life for the March assignment were encouraged to arrange their still life next to a window with natural cool north light (or afternoon east light or morning west light) and aim a (preferably 200 W) incandescent spot light at 90 to 100 degrees from the natural light source in order to find the widest possible range in colors.
—Elaine Lierly-Jones, 1st Vice Pres./Program Chairman

artinwc
03-26-2008, 09:57 AM
Thanks everyone, for such great responses. :wave: And thank you Donna, for all the photos and such in depth information. I knew you would have a wealth of great information to share. The examples are priceless! And the information on lighting that many of you mentioned is especially helpful, as I had no idea where to start.

So, first thing I am going to do is print out this thread and sit down and study it in depth. Then I'm going to look for a suitable place to try and setup the still life. Then I need to look for objects, which may even require a shopping trip this weekend. :D I remember having a box of silk scarves that I eventually gave away trying to "lighten my load" many years ago. Regret that, for sure!!! :( But I do have an old Ralph Lauren comforter which has a pattern that I liked so much that I bought a second one when the first one wore out...I think the name of it is "Charleston". I could just use the pillow shams in the still life. This could be fun...just figuring out what to include.

I do have a room that has cool north light from a big window and will probably start there, with an additional lamp. Hmmm...the keyboard on my piano might also be something to include. I do want it to look more spontaneous than planned, if that makes any sense.

Again, thanks everyone! I hope maybe someone else can find helpful things here too.

Judith

Diana_pastels
03-26-2008, 10:38 AM
Thank you everyone for posting all your information and tips to this thread. Although I didn't originally ask the questions, I am so grateful for the answers. I, too, am printing this out for further study.
Donna, your included pictures are fabulous!

Diana

mrking
03-26-2008, 11:36 AM
My tip... use a grey card.

Donna A
03-26-2008, 11:48 AM
Hi, everyone! Glad the pictures and info are being useful! Here is a thought about 'boxing in' a still life to create a 'dark cavern' when you want a still life to come out of the shadows into the light. Years ago I built a collapsible cavern structure out of black quarter-inch foam core board. I hinged 3 panels using black cloth tape as one might use a piano hinge, running half the width of the tape all the way down one edge, then, with the second board laid straight on top of the first board, fold the hinging tape over the edge. Then turn the (s0-far) two boards 'inside out' so that the tape hinge is now on the inside between the two boards, I tape that edge again from the other side. This gives a bend that has a pretty full radius---and also lets it fold flat. Tape a third board on to one of the others so that you have a triptych. YOu wan to be be sure that you've kept the boards squared up with each other so they will sit level. then---a fourth board can be laid over the top, you've positioned drapes, etc. If you want, cut little hinged windows in the side---that can be closed up again when unwanted in that location in the next still life.

This will fold up just over and inch thick and store very easily. You can make the caven as large or small as you want, based on your needs. You can even create a large and a smaller one since they take so little space and are inexpensive---and mine has lasted over 20 years, stored and used and stored and used.

The black color 'stays out of the way. Supports the shadowy-ness and with no color bias other than pieces installed in the still life. Andd it's very sturdy! Beginning as a 'roofless' triptych, its far easier to set up your still life! It can be made narrow or wide. Extremely flexible to me your needs and desires! :heart: Best wishes! Donna ;-}

Skartz
03-26-2008, 08:57 PM
Donna, reading your post is just like being in class again! I'm going to print your 'mini' class and set up a still life using the info you so graciously shared. Thanks for being so helpful to those of us who work on our own!

Tracy Lang
03-26-2008, 09:37 PM
What a great thread...I've only done a few still life's and would really like to get better at setting them up and painting them...such a great way to work from life when outside and/or models are not available...also love the fact that you can leave them and paint as time allows.
Rated 5!!!

Donna A
03-26-2008, 10:42 PM
Hi, again, everyone! In class this morning it occurred to me that I might share something else with you all that I was sharing with the artists working on one of the still lifes.

I have been looking at still lifes as 'interior landscapes' for many years now---and having spent decades plein air painting, as well as painting portraits, figures and still lifes, I've been fortunate to see the different subjects in some very similar terms. Wasn't always that way. There was a time forever ago when I was looking at still lifes as a collection of 'stuff.' That just does not work well!

With any subject, I look at it as shapes of colors rather than objects. Shapes of colors is Right Hemisphere/Intuitive. Objects is Left Hemisphere/Thinking. We need to paint headquartered in the Intuitive.

So---always double-check how you are looking at your subject, whatever it is. Enjoy! Take good care! Donna ;-}

Willemke
03-27-2008, 05:56 PM
Judith.... thank you for asking this question, youv'e received lots of good information, I have learned a lot.

Donna...your pictures and info were just amazing, thank you.

Bringer
03-28-2008, 03:55 PM
Hi,

I didn't read all the answers, so I don't know if this has been mentioned.
When setting up your still life, one of things that you can do is to filter your light through a semi-opaque (don't know the name in english) glass, very thin cloth or paper. Mind that the subject should be on a dimm environment so that the lighting is more dramatic.
The filtered light gives a neat effect.
Another technique is to set your house on fire.
The shimmering light of the burning flames conveys an interesting myriad of effects on your still life:evil:

Kind regards,

José

RooGal
03-29-2008, 06:49 PM
Thank you for starting this thread Judith! I started a very simple still life only yesterday and was unaware this thread was running.

Charlie - your post contained a wealth of information. thank you.
Donna - you have some truly beautiful still life pieces. I love the fabrics you use and how you tie it all together. I find lace and fabric patterns a bit intimidating and unsure how to capture. thank you for sharing that with us.

now i'm off to check out the thread Kathryn opened.

Deborah Secor
03-29-2008, 09:55 PM
Here's the link to that BMBURT demo (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=432704)that shows his set up and lighting. It's amazing to see how he sight sizes them. Brian shows a shot of his easel and setup later in the thread... I like his little almost-photographic renderings of stuff like a pencil taped to the wall.

Deborah